I’ve run a few patriotic races that I’ve really enjoyed this year. There was Oklahoma City in April, a tribute to the victims of the 1995 bombing. The there was Portland/Sauvie Island on July 4, a heck of a way to kick off Independence Day. Recently, I ran a 9-hour, 11-minute timed race on September 11 that was as American as apple pie. But Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., and Washington D.C. was as good as it gets.
As the Marine Corps Marathon, there’s a very strong military presence. Soldiers handed us our race bib at the expo. Soldiers manned the aid stations and handed us water and Powerade. Soldiers ran in the race. We start right alongside Arlington National Cemetery. It was pretty awesome.
I was walking up to the start line and I saw the start of the wheelchair race. There were two entrants who were obviously soldiers who had lost their legs. They both had 10 or so Marines running behind them. The amputees were young, maybe 22 at the oldest. There are no words to explain what it was like to see them wheeling by with their fellow Marines supporting them. I think I look up to soldiers more than just about anybody and I more-or-less felt undeserving to run in the same race as them.
But I did and I was excited about the course. I knew we’d run by Arlington, the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building and eventually finish by the Iwo Jima Memorial.
So yeah, my running, big deal. I headed into the race with pretty low expectations. I’ve run some tough courses lately and I’ve beat myself up, but I haven’t run a marathon quicker than 3:28 since September 4. I was hoping I could go better than 3:20, but realistically I knew I couldn’t expect much more out of myself than a 3:30. But really, I wasn’t too worried about it. I was out to give my best and enjoy everything the race stands for.
I felt OK early, ran hard and hit the half in 1:35. I knew I wouldn’t hold it. I wasn’t pushing too hard, but there’s not enough left in my legs right now to put together a solid 26.2 miles. I didn’t fear running too fast and gave it my all.
As I mentioned, the aid stations were manned by Marines. There were also some civilian volunteers, but I only took water and Powerade from the Marines. If you have an opportunity to have your heroes hand you drinks while you’re running a marathon, you don’t pass that up! I looked at all of them at every station and was wowed like I was by baseball players when I was a kid. Those are the bravest, toughest people in America and they’re willing to die so I can live the life I want to. I know it sounds corny, but I really have a huge amount of respect for them.
I slowed down after about mile 15. Not intentionally — my legs just refused to play along any more. I started to feel flare-ups in my right knee with the tendinitis and IT band problems I’ve had lately. No big deal. I’m used to running in pain. At around mile 18 or so, we ran right by the Capitol Building and it was pretty crazy to thing about the impact of all the business that gets taken care of in there. I don’t get into my own personal politics here, but realistically, everybody knows that building is going to get shaken up on Tuesday and it was eerie to run by it — the calm before the likely storm.
At about mile 24, we ran by the Pentagon. That was pretty wild, too. I looked at those windows and thought about the decisions that come of there. Those decisions are a lot more powerful and affect a lot more lives than any decision that’s ever come out of any building I’ll ever work at, that’s for sure. It also came to mind that a plane crashed down there on 9/11. I wasn’t sure exactly where, but I knew there was serious turmoil in that area that day. I’ll take a look online when I get a chance.
Ok, so I finished the race in 3:23:51. I’ll take it — it’s a step in the right direction for me. I stepped up my training a little bit this week with some hill work and track work and I’m optimistic I can continue to regain some speed if I keep working hard.
Enough about my running, though. When I finished the race, I looked up and was staring right at the Iwo Jima Memorial. A Marine with the last name Yatus put my medal around my neck, complete with “Oo-rah, congratulations Sir.” Pretty cool, but I felt pretty humble. Running 26.2 miles is no big deal, certainly nothing for a soldier to congratulate me for. But it was certainly a pretty cool cap to a great race.
I run a lot of marathons and hit some that are better than others. This one ranks right up there with the two other major marathons I’ve run this year, Boston and Chicago. It’s well worth running. I couldn’t imagine somebody not enjoying it.
And that’s pretty much it, I guess. Another marathon completed for Operation Jack. 52 down, only nine to go!
Best backdrop ever for a finish-line photo.